Movie Diary 1/27/2020

Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957). An adventure in sound and cutting. Mifune is great insect mode. The shudder of arrows and the reedy song of ghosts. Good stuff.

Macbeth (Justin Kurzel, 2015). A number of disappointments in this adaptation, although the scenery never fails. Fassbender plays it quiet, which becomes a one-note experience; Marion Cotillard captures some eerie moments as the Lady. Artiness tends to prevail as it reaches its grisly end.

Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973). A periodic re-watch. Whatever its 70s issues may be, the movie is sturdy and confident – and prescient, of course.

Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu, 2018). Catching up with one I missed the first time around. And wow, is this ever a dopey movie. A group of pleasant actors trapped in a ball of pure cheese, all of it slickly done. It was a big hit, and the sequel is coming.

Gentlemen Last (This Week’s Movies)

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Michelle Dockery, Matthew McConaughey: The Gentlemen (STX Films)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

The Gentlemen. “The same smirk is in place, the same breezy pleasure in random violence, the same snickering over gay jokes and Asian names.”

The Last Full Measure. “A workmanlike but ultimately effective film.”

The Cave. “The brief glimpses above ground are haunting, such as the sight of a man (a restaurant worker? An average citizen?) running through the streets to bring a vat of soup to the hospital. He might as well be carrying a solitary torch of humanity.”

At What a Feeling!, we’re reviving more 1980s reviews this week: Joan Micklin Silver’s Crossing Delancey, Stephen MacLean’s Around the World in 80 Ways, Zelda Barron’s Shag, Terry Jones’ Personal Services, and James Toback’s The Pick-Up Artist.

For the Scarecrow blog, I contribute a Seasoned Ticket post that recalls Ed Harris’s 2000 biopic, Pollock.

Movie Diary 1/22/2020

The Gentlemen (Guy Ritchie, 2020). Ritchie’s old dog may not have many new tricks, but the rolling over and fetching remains amusing. And giving the likes of Hugh Grant, Jeremy Strong, and Henry Golding stuff to do is all right. The glibness does wear thin, to say nothing of the laddish smirk the movie wears throughout its running time. (full review 1/24)

Movie Diary 1/21/2020

The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982). Yes, I watched it again, in the interest of adding nuance to my controversial ’82 Seattle Times review. It certainly is a better film than I gave it credit for in that piece, and I understand why it is considered a classic. I criticized the lack of character development, but Carpenter believes that action is character, and the cast is so great they fill in the gaps. I’m convinced the film looks better on DVD than it did in the theater, but in any case it’s a gorgeous movie to gaze at. There might be just a little too much Alien-influenced monster-movie gore for what I think the film ought to have, but the humor and the rhythm are spot-on. Plus, the ending: just right.

The Last Full Measure (Todd Robinson, 2019). A workmanlike account, much ficitionalized, about efforts to get the Medal of Honor for a real-life Vietnam war hero, William Pitsenbarger, who died in combat in 1966. Buoyed by a terrific supporting cast that includes William Hurt, Ed Harris, and John Savage (still haunted by Vietnam, it seems), the film eventually scores. Peter Fonda, in one of his last roles, is especially moving as a PTSD-addled vet. (full review 1/23)

Movie Diary 1/20/2020

Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019). A second look. Scene for scene, the film is lively and vivid, more so than I gave it credit for on my first pass. And yet I still don’t understand what it’s about. Phoenix seems even more the co-auteur of the movie, and in some mysterious way Arthur Fleck appears to be in control of what we see.

The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019). A young woman (the silent-movie-faced Julia Garner) endures a day on staff of a Harvey Weinstein-like Hollywood producer. He is never seen, but he dominates the film, sourly. (full review 2/7)

Movie Diary 1/19/2020

The Cave (Feras Fayyad, 2019). One of the Oscar-nominated documentaries, about medical staff trying to keep it together after their hospital is driven underground (literally, in tunnels beneath the streets) during the ongoing siege of a Syrian city. There are things to quibble about, but the reality disclosed is harrowing.

Cleo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962). Varda’s second feature, which plays a few games with “real time” and New Wave techniques – although nothing feels borrowed or part of a larger movement, especially the complicated treatment of a shallow heroine. Varda’s usual lack of sentimentality isn’t quite as striking here as it would be in Le Bonheur, three years later, which is a much more radical movie. It has a curious resemblance to Carnival of Souls, which came out the same year.

Dolittle Boys (This Week’s Movies)

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Robert Downey, Jr.: Dolittle (Universal Pictures)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and etc.

Dolittle. “Hyperactive and jokey, large-scaled but swift-moving, the film perks along enough to get genuinely bizarre at times. ”

Bad Boys for Life. “We get neon-lit car chases, bungled stakeouts and panic at a disco. Real American carnage. The formula is that our heroes go through all of this while joking and bantering, which would be easier to enjoy if the movie weren’t continually endorsing their extra-legal approach to law enforcement.”

At What a Feeling!, a week of S-movies from the 1980s: Stephen Frears’ Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, Sidney J. Furie’s Superman IV – The Quest for Peace, Peter Yates’ Suspect, Michie Gleason’s Summer Heat, and a twofer review of Alex Cox’s Straight to Hell and Pedro Almodovar’s Law of Desire, which apparently opened the same delirious weekend in 1987.

And hey, tonight I’ll be introducing Rear Window as part of the Whidbey Island Film Festival’s Alfred Hitchcock celebration. That’s at 7:30 at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. Take a look at the lineup here.